Round 15 finds the Raiders starting the week with a win in their pocket, something of a rarity in 2021. Their round 14 victims, the Broncos, slumped to second last, while their opponents for this round were mauled by current spooners the Bulldogs.
Stuart has named an unchanged side which must be a relief to players and fans alike. The Simonsson experiment proved so fruitful in just a single round one wonders why the hell they didn’t make it happen sooner.
Indeed round 14’s backline was the best the Green Machine had fielded since CNK last ran out. Timoko looked good, and importantly willing to commit to the hard yardage (hardage!?) that he and Valemei need to carry out. He also made plenty of tackles, contending with Tevita Pangai Jr running right at him and Sam Williams. I for one would be happy with the current five plus Savage as our edges for the remainder of the year.
The Raiders may feel as though they’ve turned a corner but most of us probably want a few more solid wins against competent opponents. The road ahead sees the Raiders face the Dragons, Titans, Sea-Eagles and then the Sharks. There are winnable games at hand, but they require focus and application.
This game presents the Raiders management with something of a conundrum: if the Raiders shame Dragons fullback Matt Dufty do Canberra still pursue his signature? His defence against Canterbury was diabolical, and if Simonsson continues to shine as custodian Dufty may find himself out of a job in 2022.
BIG BOPPER WATCH
Joe Tapine vs Paul Vaughan
Tapine looked like he might be on the path back to awesomeness against the Broncos. He was the third most productive Raiders forward after Papa and Guler, and with the exception of one comical fumble he kept things straight and simple. If Hodgson can get him into space it’ll be alarm bells for St George. Vaughan was renowned for his tackle prep on carries when he played here, always going down stomach first to facilitate a quick play the ball. Canberra need to get him on his back.
Jack Wighton vs Corey Norman
Wighton bamboozled the dopey defence of the Broncos for a solo try, but we just need him to inject a smidge more setup on his edge for good measure. If he can isolate Dragons edge defenders whilst moving with support he’ll create all kinds of headaches for the Red V. Corey Norman has been told his time at St George is over by next year, which means every game for him is now an audition for a new club.
BACK IT UP
Bailey Simonsson vs Matt Dufty
Simonsson’s effort against the Broncos helped erase the painful hilarity of the thankfully short-lived Aekins era. Here’s hoping another standout showing will shut the door on the prospect of seeing Dufty don the green.
BENCHMARK TO BEAT
How’s this for a crazy idea Stick? Instead of having Starling play the last fifteen minutes let’s gently ease young Xavier Savage into top flight footy. Just a thought.
THE FINAL SIREN
Any still persevering with idea of a finals-bound Raiders needs to shift to a long-term outlook. This side blew up in the worst way possible this year, and still has a long way to go before they can even consider any kind of high-pressure footy. If they’re going to be mopping up fellow strugglers they need to show that they’re at least doing it right – with a mobile, dominant pack and stout defence.
Raiders by as many tries as Dufty can let in!